I randomly happened upon a site called Penzu.com (you have to love the obscure names that come about from lack of domain availability). It is a personal journal site that basically gives you an encrypted online diary. It also has ssl security on the connection. So you can write your daily journal online, and you won’t have to worry about anyone else reading it.
Wait, let me repeat that. You can write in your journal online daily and never have to worry about anyone else reading it. First of all, letting other people ready something you’ve written is one of the major benefits of the web. Why would you want to post anything online and then keep everyone else from reading it? I mean I can see maybe a few people using this who don’t know any better, but Penzu actually offers a “Pro” version that’s $19.00 per year. So you have a personal blog that no one will be able to read and you have to pay 19 bucks a year for the upgrade version which includes themes and other unnecessary things. Good luck to Penzu and all, but I just don’t see that business model as being sustainable. Let me take a moment to explain why.
First of all, private journals are possible in many different forms that don’t require an internet connection. There’s physical diaries. There’s notebooks. There’s personal computers. All three of these do not require an SSL connection to keep your information safe. If you are saving your journal on your personal computer, you may want to utilize encryption, however. A good free program for that is TrueCrypt. Though it isn’t the only one. There are many. All three of these methods for keeping a diary are much safer than posting anything online, they don’t require an internet connection, and they don’t cost a dime. So why would anyone want to post their journal this way?
I think what led to this idea is the notion that blogs are too public. People may not feel like they can speak their mind on a blog because anyone and everyone will read it. This has the potential of keeping someone from getting a job or getting fired from their current job. So maybe someone looked at this problem and thought, “What we need is a site that lets people make private journal posts”, which honestly would have been a good idea before the invention of books, pencils/pens, or personal computers. Unfortunately, today it’s just not a great idea, certainly not one worth $19 a year.
Everyone is in a race for the next big internet idea. Penzu.com is an example of a well implemented bad idea. The site is beautiful. It has wonderful design and coding. Unfortunately, the idea behind this wonderful site is terrible. If I had to guess, a rich “idea person” decided to put a lot of money into one of his brilliant ideas and out popped penzu.com. I don’t fault the developers who made the site. They were doing work to pay their bills, and they actually did an awesome job.
I do have some thoughts on how to make this idea a little better, however.
First ditch the “pro” version idea completely. Meaning get rid of a payment of any kind. The service needs to be completely free for the user. Make your money through advertisements within the interface.
Secondly, make this site more social. Think about copying Google+ circles. Allow users to make a post public, private, or restricted to certain friends or friend groups.
Penzu has to realize that their idea goes against what makes Web 2.0 great, and they aren’t doing anything groundbreaking with this idea. But enough of my ranting…